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Mykhailo Serhiyovych Hrushevsky

Mykhailo Serhiyovych Hrushevsky

Mykhailo Serhiyovych Hrushevsky (Ukrainian: Михайло Сергійович Грушевський; Chełm, 29 September [O.S. 17 September] 1866 – Kislovodsk, 26 November 1934) was a Ukrainian academician, politician, historian, and statesman, one of the most important figures of the Ukrainian national revival of the early 20th century. He was the country's greatest modern historian, foremost organizer of scholarship, leader of the pre-revolution Ukrainian national movement, head of the Central Rada (Ukraine's 1917–1918 revolutionary parliament), and a leading cultural figure in Soviet Ukraine in the 1920s. He died under mysterious circumstances in 1934.


Mykhailo Hrushevsky was born on September 29, 1866 in a Ukrainian noble family (according to Timothy Snyder, his mother was Polish)[1] of religious and humanist scholars in city of Chełm, in the Lublin Governorate of the Russian Empire (in present-day Poland). Hrushevsky grew up in the foothills of the Caucasian mountains in Stavropol and Vladikavkaz. His spiritual native land became Podolia in the area of the village of Sestrynivka, Podolia Governorate, where his mother (Hlafira Zakharivna Okopova) was born, and where her father was a local Russian Orthodoxpriest. In the same village she married the professor of the Kiev Ecclesiastical Seminary, Serhiy Fedorovych Hrushevsky. Serhiy Hrushevsky's father was a highly decorated official (his awards included the two Orders of Saint Anna and the Bronze Cross, and a title of nobility). Fedir Hrushevsky was a graduate of the history department of the Kiev University and later personally blessed his grandson when he was enrolling into the Saint Vladimir University in Kiev.


As a historian, Hrushevsky authored the first detailed scholarly synthesis of Ukrainian history, his ten volume History of Ukraine-Rus', which was published in the Ukrainian language and covered the period from pre-history to the 1660s. In this work, he balanced a commitment to the common Ukrainian people with an appreciation for native Ukrainian political entities, autonomous polities and such, which steadily increased in the final volumes of this, his master work. In general, Hrushevsky's approach combined rationalist enlightenment principles with a romantic commitment to the cause of the nation and positivist methodology to produce a highly authoritative history of his native land and people. Hrushevsky also wrote a multi-volume History of Ukrainian Literature, an Outline History of the Ukrainian People in Russian, and a very popular Illustrated History of Ukrainewhich appeared in both Ukrainian and Russian editions. In addition to these major works, he wrote numerous specialized studies in which he displayed a very acute critical acumen. His personal bibliography lists over 2000 separate titles.

In Hrushevsky's varied historical writings certain basic ideas come to the fore. Firstly, Hrushevsky saw continuity in Ukrainian history from ancient times to his own. Thus he claimed the ancient Ukrainian Steppe cultures from Scythia, through Kievan Rus' to the Cossacks as part of the Ukrainian heritage. He viewed the Halych-Volhynian Principality as the sole legitimate heir of Kievan Rus'. This is opposed to the official scheme of Russian history which claimed Kievan Rus' for the Vladimir-Suzdal Principality and Imperial Russia.) Secondly, to give real depth to this continuity, Hrushevsky stressed the role of the common people, the "popular masses" as he called them, throughout all these eras. Thus popular revolts against the various foreign states that ruled Ukraine were also a major theme. Thirdly, Hrushevsky always put the accent upon native Ukrainian factors rather than international ones as the causes of various phenomena. Thus he was an anti-Normanist who stressed the Slavic origins of Rus', put the emphasis upon internal discord as the primary reason for the fall of Kievan Rus', and emphasized the native Ukrainian ethnic makeup and origins of the Ukrainian Cossacks. (He thought run-away serfs especially important in this regard.) Also, he stressed the national aspect to the Ukrainian renaissance of the 16th and 17th centuries and thought the great revolt of Bohdan Khmelnytsky and the Cossacks against the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was a largely national and social rather than simply religious phenomenon. Thus continuity, nativism, and populism characterized his general histories.

With regard to the role of statehood in Hrushevsky's historical thought, contemporary scholars are still not in agreement. Some believe that Hrushevsky retained a populist mistrust of the state throughout his career and his deep democratic convictions reflected this, while others believe that Hrushevsky gradually became more and more of a partisan of Ukrainian statehood in his various writings and that this is reflected in his political work on the construction of a Ukrainian national state during the revolution of 1917-18.


As an organizer of scholarship, Hrushevsky oversaw the transformation of the Shevchenko Literary Society which was based in the Austrian controlled province of Galicia into a new Shevchenko Scientific Society. This organization published hundreds of volumes of scholarly literature before the First World War and quickly grew to serve as an unofficial Academy of Sciences for the Ukrainian people living on both sides of the Russian-Austrian border. After the revolution of 1905 in Russia, Hrushevsky organized the Ukrainian Scientific Society in Kiev in 1907 that served as a prototype to the future academy of sciences. After the 1917-1921 revolution, he founded the Ukrainian Sociological Institute in exile in Vienna, and after his return to Ukraine in the 1920s became a major figure in the newly founded All-Ukrainian Academy of Sciences in Kiev (since 1923).


Before 1917

As a political leader, Hrushevsky first became active in Austrian Galicia, where he spoke out against Polish political predominance, against Ruthenian particularism, and in favor of a national Ukrainian identity which would unite both eastern and western parts of the country. In 1899, he was a co-founder of the Galician-based National Democratic Party. This party looked forward to eventual Ukrainian independence. After 1905, Hrushevsky advised the Ukrainian Club in the Russian State Duma or Parliament and advocated Ukrainian national autonomy within a democratic Russia

The Ukrainian Revolution

In 1917, Hrushevsky was elected head of the revolutionary parliament, the Ukrainian Central Rada in Kiev and guided it gradually from Ukrainian national autonomy within a democratic Russia through to completely independent statehood. At this time, Hrushevsky was clearly revealed as a radical democrat and a socialist. Following the German-supported coup of general Pavlo Skoropadsky, he went into hiding. Hrushevsky felt that Skoropadsky had perverted the cause of Ukrainian statehood by associating it with social conservatism. Hrushevsky returned to public politics following the overthrow of Skoropadsky by theDirectory. He did not, however, approve of the Directory and soon found himself in conflict with it. In 1919 he emigrated, having acquired a mandate from the Ukrainian Party of Socialist Revolutionaries to co-ordinate the activities of its representatives abroad.

Emigration and Return to Ukraine

While an emigre, Hrushevsky began to adopt a pro-Bolshevik position. Along with other members of the Ukrainian Party of Socialist Revolutionaries he formed the Foreign Delegation of the Ukrainian Party of Socialist Revolutionaries which advocated reconciliation with the Bolshevik regime. Though the group was critical of the Bolsheviks, especially due to their centralism and repressive activities in Ukraine, it felt that these criticisms had to be put aside, because the Bolsheviks were the leaders of the international revolution. Hrushevsky and his group petitioned the Soviet Ukrainian government to legalise the Ukrainian Party of Socialist Revolutionaries and allow the members of the Foreign Delegation to return. The Soviet Ukrainian government was unwilling to do this. Consequently, by 1921 the Foreign Delegation of the Ukrainian Party of Socialist Revolutionaries had ended its activity. Nevertheless, all of its members returned to Ukraine, including Hrushevsky, who went back in 1924.

Later years and death

Now back in Ukraine, Hrushevsky concentrated on academic work. Above all, he continued writing his monumental History of Ukraine-Rus. The political conditions prevented his return to public politics. Nonetheless, he was caught up in the Stalinist purge of the Ukrainian intelligentsia. In 1931, after a long campaign against Hrushevsky in the Soviet press, the historian was exiled to Moscow. In 1934, under the close watch of the Soviet political police he died unexpectedly in Kislovodsk in the Caucasus at the age of 68.


Although Hrushevsky's political career remains controversial and is viewed by some as having been disastrous. He is presently regarded as Ukraine's greatest scholar of the twentieth century and one of the most prominent Ukrainian statesmen in the country's history. He is still famous in Ukraine. Hrushevsky has been more lionized then Volodymyr Vynnychenko and Symon Petliura who both played bigger parts during the Ukrainian People's Republic (but who where either too much left wing (Vynnychenko) or too much associated with violence (Petliura) to make good symbolic figures).

Hrushevsky's portrait appears on the fifty hryvnia note. One museum in Kiev and another in Lviv are devoted to his memory, and monuments to him have been erected in both cities. A street in Kiev that bears his name houses the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) and many governmental offices. The Ukrainian Academy of Sciences recently initiated the publication of his Collected Works in fifty volumes.


Mykhailo Hrushevsky had two siblings: brother - Oleksandr and sister - Hanna.

·         Oleksandr Hrushevsky (1877-1943) was married to Olha Hrushevska (Parfenenko) (1876-1961)

·         Hanna Shamrayeva had two children Serhiy and Olha

The wife of Hrushevsky - Maria-Ivanna Hrushevska (November 8, 1868 - September 19, 1948) was born near Zboriv (Austria-Hungary) to Sylvester and Karolina Vojakowski. She met Hrushevsky in Lviv in 1893 and after three years they married in a town of Skala near Borschiv. On June 21, 1900, while living in Lviv in the family of Hrushevsky was born a daughter Kateryna. Since 1917 Maria was a member of the Central Rada and a treasurer for the Ukrainian National Theater.


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